Euthanasia, or a ‘good death’, is a heated topic in the Netherlands, which is known for its liberal views. The Dutch approach reflects a strong belief in freedom and personal choice. The Netherlands was the first country to legalise euthanasia in 2002, and has one of the most progressive euthanasia laws in the world.
Euthanasia is allowed under strict conditions: the patient must endure unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement, the request must be voluntary and well-considered, and the patient must be fully informed. The decision must be supported by at least two doctors to ensure a thorough and ethical process. The same criteria apply to euthanasia for patients who suffer unbearably from dementia or for psychiatric reasons, such as major depression or personality disorders, which are rare and subject to strict safeguards.
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However, the debate doesn’t stop there. A social and political discussion is currently underway about extending the right of euthanasia to the elderly who feel their lives are complete, even in the absence of severe illness. This is groundbreaking, even for the Netherlands.
Critics worry this could put pressure on older people, who feel they are a burden, to choose euthanasia. Supporters argue that it’s all about personal freedom: a person’s sense of a fulfilled life, devoid of suffering, should be respected and the right to a dignified end is a fundamental aspect of personal freedom. Research commissioned by the government found that over 10,000 Dutch people aged 55 and over (out of 21,000 participants in the study) would consider euthanasia when they feel their lives are completed.
This debate shows how the Netherlands continues to push the boundaries when it comes to personal freedom. It’s a complex issue, as it highlights the delicate balance between safeguarding vulnerable individuals and honouring the deeply-held Dutch value of self-determination. As this debate continues, the Netherlands remains at the forefront, navigating the complex interplay of ethical, moral and personal freedoms.
Cycling is deeply ingrained in Dutch culture, with over 23.4 million bicycles out of a population of 17.5 million. This has evolved over decades, starting in the 1890s when the flat terrain and compact urban areas made cycling a convenient choice of transport. Following World War II, the Netherlands prioritised cycle networks to connect cities, towns and rural areas.
In the 1970s, cycling advocacy groups emerged, and the government responded with significant investment in cycling infrastructure, and focusing on “slow traffic”. Cities and towns were designed with separated bike lanes, bike-friendly intersections, and traffic-calming measures.
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In big Dutch cities, car-free areas and pedestrian zones are becoming more common. Amsterdam’s city centre has restricted car access with no major opposition. Generally, locals like it this way: at the end of last century, when cars threatened to take over, thousands protested against giving more space to four-wheels.
Nowadays, all train stations have huge bike parks for those who bike to take the train. Bike-sharing programs have also been implemented across Dutch cities, offering easy access to bicycles for short-term use. Individuals can easily rent a bike at a train station, use it to reach their destination, and return it at another location. It costs around 4.45 euros per 24 hours, which is usually reimbursed by employers.
Dutch companies often provide incentives for employees to commute by bike or public transport. Some offer tax benefits, reimbursements for bike expenses, or subsidised public transport passes. Cycling education is also integrated into the school curriculum, emphasising road safety and cycling skills from a young age.
The Dutch cycle more than 15 billion kilometres a year, with urban planners ensuring essential facilities (supermarkets, shopping and recreational areas, hospitals, schools and stations) are within cycling distance. However, the state secretary for infrastructure Vivianne Heijnen has emphasised the need for continued effort, as almost half of car journeys are shorter than 7.5 kilometres, a distance easily covered by cycling.
Over 53,000 people moved away from Amsterdam in 2021, according to the central bureau of statistics CBS. That is more than five percent of the total population of the city.
Noise, crowds, dissatisfaction with their neighbourhood, and rising housing costs are among the top concerns cited by locals in a report published by Rabobank. These are “signals that the limit has been reached and liveability is in danger,” admits the municipality.
Amsterdam is seeing a surge in mass tourism (19 million overnight visitors per year), but also a rising population of 921,000 people currently, many of whom are expats willing to pay high rents and house prices.